Using Exercise Balls to Teach Core Tackling Fundamentals

Jul 10, 2017 | Tackling, Defense, Fundamentals

By Joey Mariani
Defensive Coordinator
University of Redlands (CA)
Twitter: @UR_CoachMariani


In teaching tackling, we emphasize what we call the “Three Rules of a Bulldog Tackle.” First, you must be able to see what you are hitting. This point of emphasis prevents our players from hitting with the crown of their helmets. Second, we tell them to lower your target. We coach that your eyes should be on the ball. This helps prevent the helmet to helmet contact that we are all aware of and teaches safer tackling. Lowering the target also gets our defenders closer to the ball and therefore, leads to more turnovers. Third, we teach them to finish through the ball carrier with a low to high wrapping up motion with your arms.

At the University of Redlands, we use alternative methods to teach basic fundamentals, keep players engaged, keeps players safe and maximize learning in a limited time frame. The following drills are used by us in the spring (because we aren’t in pads), or at the end of week when we still want to practice tackling fundamentals without the violence so close to game time.

The drill that we use for our safeties is designed to teach them to come to balance out of a full speed run in multiple directions and situations while using an exercise ball to finish the drill.  We have found that the exercise ball forces players to sink their hips, to run through the ball carrier, to wrap up and it is a very non-violent way to practice tackling. The ball is also a very inexpensive piece of equipment. Conversely, the other tackling devises out there are expensive and just don’t have the ability to be utilized in a fast / effective manner. The use of the exercise ball can be utilized to finish any drill that a coach has that will have the player finish with a tackle. For example, our players will learn to cut-to-tackle, block destruction to tackle, bag drill to tackle, get-off with a slant to tack, etc. I think that the possibilities are endless with the use of the exercise ball in multiple defensive positions.